george-w-bush_web.jpgDALLAS (AP) — Former President George W. Bush is traveling to Africa to raise awareness about cervical and breast cancer, an effort he calls a “natural extension” of a program launched during his presidency that helps fight AIDS on the continent.

 

Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and officials with the George W. Bush Institute are heading to Tanzania, Zambia and Ethiopia Dec. 1- 5. They will visit clinics and meet with governmental and healthcare leaders.

“We believe it's in our nation's interest to deal with disease and set priorities and save lives,” Bush said.

In 2003, Bush launched the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, to expand AIDS prevention, treatment and support programs in countries hit hard by the epidemic.

The new program, called the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, seeks to expand the availability of cervical cancer screening and treatment and breast care education in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Bush said existing AIDS clinics will be used to screen and treat cervical cancer, which is four to five times more common among those living with HIV than those who don't have the virus. Last year, 3.2 million people received antiretroviral treatments as a result of PEPFAR.

The initiative is a partnership among several organizations, including the Bush Institute, PEPFAR and the United Nations program on HIV and AIDS. Its goal is to reduce deaths by 25 percent in five years among women screened and treated through the initiative.

“We want to show what works and hopefully others across the continent of Africa will join us,” Bush said.

Eric G. Bing, director of global health at the Bush Institute, said, “There's silence around cancer for many of these communities and in many of these nations. And that's one of the things that we hope to change.”

Photo: Former President George W. Bush